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Rhode Island Alimony - Understanding RI is a Rehabilitative State!

Alimony is an important concept to understand under Rhode Island law.

The Rhode Island media, in fact the media in general with television shows like, LA Law, Law and Order and articles about fat divorce settlements that include large alimony payments in the National Enquirer and even movies such as the comedy Liar, Liar leave Rhode Islanders with the notion that alimony is typical, commonplace and, in fact, an entitlement.  Unfortunately as the media creates its entertainment or information to sell more newspapers and raise its profitability can, and does, foster the idea in the minds of our citizenry that alimony really is an entitlement by a spouse and should be demanded by an aggrieved spouse who expects to suffer a decrease in his or her finances after a divorce if alimony is not granted by the court.

To gain a better understanding of Rhode Island alimony, you may wish to review the Rhode Island Domestic Relations section of the General Laws regarding Divorce & Separation, the more specific section relating to alimony appears below but since the laws are updating constantly it is always advisable to check your local library and any update services as well as the cases that interpret the Alimony statute before taking any action on your own.  The section below has been quoted, in pertinent part, from the Rhode Island Government Website as of this date.

[Beginning of Exerpt from RI State Government Website]

R.I.G.L. § 15-5-16  Alimony and counsel fees – Custody of children. (a) In granting any petition for divorce, divorce from bed and board, or relief without the commencement of divorce proceedings, the family court may order either of the parties to pay alimony or counsel fees, or both, to the other.

   (b) In determining the amount of alimony or counsel fees, if any, to be paid, the court, after hearing the witnesses, if any, of each party, shall consider:

   (i) The length of the marriage;

   (ii) The conduct of the parties during the marriage;

   (iii) The health, age, station, occupation, amount and source of income, vocational skills, and employability of the parties; and

   (iv) The state and the liabilities and needs of each of the parties.

   (2) In addition, the court shall consider:

   (i) The extent to which either party is unable to support herself or himself adequately because that party is the primary physical custodian of a child whose age, condition, or circumstances make it appropriate that the parent not seek employment outside the home, or seek only part-time or flexible-hour employment outside the home;

   (ii) The extent to which either party is unable to support herself or himself adequately with consideration given to:

   (A) The extent to which a party was absent from employment while fulfilling homemaking responsibilities, and the extent to which any education, skills, or experience of that party have become outmoded and his or her earning capacity diminished;

   (B) The time and expense required for the supported spouse to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop marketable skills and find appropriate employment;

   (C) The probability, given a party's age and skills, of completing education or training and becoming self-supporting;

   (D) The standard of living during the marriage;

   (E) The opportunity of either party for future acquisition of capital assets and income;

   (F) The ability to pay of the supporting spouse, taking into account the supporting spouse's earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, debts, and standard of living;

   (G) Any other factor which the court expressly finds to be just and proper.

   (c) For the purposes of this section, "alimony" is construed as payments for the support or maintenance of either the husband or the wife.

   (2) Alimony is designed to provide support for a spouse for a reasonable length of time to enable the recipient to become financially independent and self-sufficient. However, the court may award alimony for an indefinite period of time when it is appropriate in the discretion of the court based upon the factors set forth in subdivision (b)(2)(ii)(B). After a decree for alimony has been entered, the court may from time to time upon the petition of either party review and alter its decree relative to the amount and payment of the alimony, and may make any decree relative to it which it might have made in the original suit. The decree may be made retroactive in the court's discretion to the date that the court finds that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred; provided, the court shall set forth in its decision the specific findings of fact which show a substantial change in circumstances and upon which findings of facts the court has decided to make the decree retroactive. Nothing provided in this section shall affect the power of the court as subsequently provided by law to alter, amend, or annul any order of alimony previously entered. Upon the remarriage of the spouse who is receiving alimony, the obligation to pay alimony shall automatically terminate at once.

In my opinion, the best advice any Rhode Island Divorce and Family Law Attorney, or any lawyer for that matter who is practicing law and has a divorce case is to assist the client in wiping these concepts from his or her mind.

Rhode Island is not California or any other state that awards alimony simply because finances are going to change following the marriage and one party might have the ability to give the other party who may have less money ... more money so they are in essence "even."

A general way to think of Rhode Island alimony is that it is awarded to a spouse when he or she is in need of rehabilitation to obtain education, skills or other training that is reasonably necessary for the spouse to get back into the workforce or otherwise reasonably be able to sustain himself or herself.  Other instances in which a Rhode Island judge may still award alimony based upon the circumstances include cases in which one spouse has a disability or infirmity that occurred during the course of the marriage that prevents him or her from earning an income or limits the disabled or debilitated spouse from being able to earn enough to sustain himself or herself without assistance.

While it is certainly correct that awarding alimony the family court judge may consider many factors, it is not typically an arbitrary ward because one party may have more than another at the end of a divorce, nor is it a mechanism to penalize one spouse for conduct during the marriage or to force the payer spouse to take care of the other spouse simply because that other spouse may be used to that standard of living.  Judges in family court realize all too well that it costs more for two people to live apart than it does for them to live together and one of the underlying tenets of divorce law that I have come to understand and accept is that Judge's realize that principle and try to make equitable decisions in order to make sure that parties can end their relationship as amicably as possible and that both spouses can reasonably survive after all is said and done and the court's orders are carried out.

[End of excerpt from RI State Government Website]

Ultimately it is best to keep in mind that an alimony award is typically dependent upon a spouses ability to make money in order to survive after the divorce or separation.

Click the link in this sentence to read another article on the subject -> Rhode Island Alimony

Authored by:

Christopher A. Pearsall, Esquire
571 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, RI  02910
Phone:  (401) 354-2369

Attorney Pearsall's practice is focused almost exclusively in the areas of Divorce and Family law.

CALL (401) 354-2369 now to schedule for your low-cost, no obligation legal consultation!

NOTE:  The postings on this website are NOT legal advice, DO NOT create an attorney/client relationship and are NOT a substitute for a detailed consultation with an attorney experienced in the state where you have your legal issue.  This site is based on Rhode Island and is presented for the convenience of the internet public.

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